Airbnb calls for 'fair regulation' of short-term rental market
Airbnb has described as tragic claims that Irish families are being put out of their homes so landlords can make more money on short-term lettings.
Fine Gael's Fergus O'Dowd said there were "loads" of cases in central Dublin where the popular website was being used to get around rent controls brought in to ease the housing crisis.
Families and workers in the capital were forced to leave their homes when it was put on airbnb and they were told to pay the going rate - much higher than long-term rents - or get out, he said.
Mr O'Dowd said property owners in rent pressure zones, designated neighbourhoods where rent rises are capped at 4% a year, do not have to conform to the rules and "compete outside" by using websites like airbnb.
"People are being displaced who are working or who are families because their tenancy is legally up and they are told get out or pay this excessive amount," he told a parliamentary committee investigating the housing crisis.
"Because the excessive amount is going to airbnb there is no control over that."
Families and workers "just can't pay and they have to get out".
He added: "I've been told there are loads of examples in the centre of the city."
Patrick Robinson, European director of public policy for airbnb, said the problem with Ireland, unlike many other countries, was that there was no regulation of the short-term rental market.
"Those kinds of examples are incredibly disheartening and I'm sure tragic for those people involved in them," he told the Joint Committee on Housing.
"I think that clear, fair regulation of the short-term rental sector would play a very strong role in preventing that kind of outcome."
Mr Robinson said most people who rented out their properties through airbnb in Dublin were using spare space in their own home.
Typically, hosts make 5,000 euro hosting guests for 51 nights of the year.
Landlords leaving the long-term rental market for short-term lets would need to have bookings for well over 120 nights a year, or closer to 200 nights in some parts of the city, to make more money, Mr Robinson said.
Last year, 3,838 properties were rented out on airbnb on an "entire home" basis, rather than staying with the owner.
Of these, 85% of the properties were rented out less than 161 nights of the year, he added.
Just 16 were booked up for more than 320 nights.
Mr Robinson said the vast majority of airbnb hosts usually started renting out a spare room for the financial gains, but many ended up being motivated by showing off their neighbourhoods and meeting new people.
But he said airbnb would welcome regulations from the government on short-term rentals.
"We genuinely believe clear regulation is good for our host community and good for our business," he said.
"It does not currently exist in Ireland."